- They Couldn’t Just Run Off in Her Prius? Victoria and Abdul a film by Stephen Frears. With Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Tim Pigott-Smith, Eddie Izzard. ***
I found this movie captivating. The story of an unlikely friendship between an aging Queen Victoria (Judy Dench) and an Indian servant named Abdul (Ali Fayal), it shows the lonely old woman—who has let herself go to the ... Read more
- Bake a Motherfucking Cake as Fast as You Can Patti Cake$ a film by Geremy Jasper. With Danielle Macdonald, Bridgette Everett, Cathy Moriarity, Siddharth Dhanajay, Mamoudou Athie. ****
I should admit up front that I’m not a rap fan. I’ve tried—my nephew once made me a tape of rap’s greatest hits—but I couldn’t get into it. I like the rhythm at first, and the whole ... Read more
- Servants of Life In the Light of What We Know by Zia Haider Rahman. Picador. 497 pp. $17.00 ****1/2
This is the last book—the last of many—that my friend Levi recommended to me. He always recommended books as if to say: Go buy this and start reading it tonight (though I never did that). He went on and on ... Read more
- Living Deliberately Henry David Thoreau: A Life by Laura Dassow Walls. University of Chicago Press. 615 pp. $35.00.
This is one of the best biographies I’ve ever read. Right at the moment I can’t think of a better one. And it comes at an ideal moment for me.
The official occasion is the bicentennial of Thoreau’s birth, in 1817. ... Read more
- Going Dutch Fifty-Two Pickup, Swag from Four Novels of the 1970’s by Elmore Leonard. Library of America. 808 pp. $37.50
Elmore Leonard wrote great—I would almost say groundbreaking—dialogue, but the rest of his writing was ordinary, even pedestrian. Let’s the opening of Fifty-Two Pickup.
“He could not get used to going to the girl’s apartment. He would be tense, ... Read more
- Doc, Ya Gotta Level Wit Me Full Frame Documentary Film Festival 2017
My Lineup: Whose Streets? / Still Tomorrow / The Good Postman / Abacus / Zaatari Djinn / Tribal Justice / Strong Island / Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities / Quest / The Force / May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers
At ... Read more
- Old Corn-Drinking Mellifluous Absalom, Absalom! By William Faulkner. 315 pp. $15.95
I’m obsessed with the subject of telling stories. I’ve spoken before about how all stories are false, or all stories true; they are, in any case, human fabrications, which may have little to do with what actually happened. We love them nevertheless. Human beings tell each other stories, ... Read more
- Stories Short and Long Autumn by Ali Smith. Pantheon. 264 pp. $24.95
Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned by Walter Mosley. Washington Square Press. 208 pp. $14.00
There are short stories that seem to have enough material for novels. Alice Munro’s late work was like that, any number of mid-length stories, forty or fifty pages, which encompassed an entire life. Frank O’Connor said ... Read more
- James Baldwin Has a Question I Am Not Your Negro a film by Raoul Peck. With James Baldwin, Samuel L. Jackson, Dick Cavett. ****1/2
In a way I wish the title of this film had gone further. The speech in the movie that it most closely reflects it is one by James Baldwin on a television interview: “What white people have ... Read more
- Distinctly Praise the Years Atlantis: Three Tales by Samuel R. Delany. Wesleyan/New England. 212 pp.
Every now and then I reread something by Samuel R. Delany because all of his work is intelligent, beautifully written, and unfailingly deep. The fact that I’ve read it before doesn’t in the least diminish it. I love spending time in the presence of such ... Read more